Biblical writers do not mention gambling specifically. They are, however, critical of the love of money, which is a strong motivator for participating in gambling activities. Matthew 6:24 proclaims ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth’.
Similar warnings against the desire for money are found elsewhere:
Drawing lots is used frequently to make decisions in the Old Testament (Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:52-56; 1 Chronicles 24:31; Joshua 19:51): here the element of chance seems to act as a transparent guarantor of fairness. When lots are drawn in Acts to decide who will succeed Judas as the twelfth disciple, however, the intention seems to be that God will providentially determine the outcome (Acts 1:23-26).
Both these cases are clearly distinct from gambling, understood as the pursuit of financial gain through the unequal distribution of stakes in events with an element of chance.
The Bible therefore acknowledges that while some activities may be lawful, they are not always beneficial or helpful. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). Many Methodist members choose not to gamble for ethical reasons, but the Methodist Church in Britain does not now endorse the prohibition of gambling. Rather, it is recognised that for some people gambling is a leisure or social activity, though one which can be harmful and needs careful regulation. The Methodist Church works with ecumenical partners to persuade the UK Government to ensure that the gambling industry is closely regulated to minimise the risk and harm to some people.
The Methodist Church has a long-established concern about gambling; gambling is divisive and is a means of gaining money at the expense of others. This view is expressed by John Wesley in his sermon, The Use of Money, where he stated that gambling was a means of gain inconsistent with love of neighbour.
The Biblical lessons regarding the Christian work ethic are evident in John Wesley’s Sermon LII. He refers to Gamblers: “who made a trade of seizing on young and inexperienced men, and tricking them out of all their money… not a few of these (were constrained) honestly to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, and the labour of their hands.” Wesley condemned those responsible for exploiting more vulnerable members of society, gaining from others’ expense.
John Wesley did not object to softer forms of gambling, recognising these as a form of entertainment and relaxation. In the Rules of Society, Wesley wrote: “I never bought a lottery ticket myself, but I blame not those who do.” Ultimately it is the individual’s choice whether they choose to partake in gambling activities.
The 1936 Declaration of the Methodist Church held a prohibitionist stance on gambling. It stated that: “belief in luck cannot be reconciled with faith in God.” In addition, Methodists were asked to “avoid and discourage all forms of gambling practices.” It is worth noting that at the time of the 1936 Declaration, ‘recreational’ gambling was largely illegal and therefore unregulated.
The 1936 Declaration defined the nature of gambling as follows:
The concern voiced by the 1936 Conference about the negative effects of gambling addiction to the individual and on others is still valid today. Its judgement was that future legislation should be directed at excluding betting advertisements from the press. In addition, it called for the law to be strengthened in relation to young people and gambling.
The 1936 Declaration was superseded in 1992 by a new Methodist Statement on Gambling. It recognised that while many Christians choose not to gamble at all on ethical grounds, others participate in forms of gambling that may be considered leisure or social activities. Furthermore, it is important ‘to heed the experience of our tradition in our concerns for the serious evils of gambling; but also to avoid the heavy-footed pursuit of the trivial’.
The Church is keen to ensure that gambling is well-regulated and carried out with a concern to minimise the harm it can cause. Methodists remain deeply concerned that people can still get trapped by compulsive gambling. Problem gambling can destroy relationships, families and lives. It can have a disproportionate effect on children.
The Methodist Church in Ireland’s theological reflections on gambling and the national lottery are also noted. The Methodist Church in Ireland made significant statements on gambling in 1931, 1951, 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2012. In light of the 2012 Conference Resolution that affirmed ‘opposition to all forms of gambling’, it nevertheless resolved to permit Missions and other Church bodies to apply for lottery-sourced funding under very specific circumstances. The Church continues to explore alternative sources of funding which churches and community projects might access.
There are a number of current concerns around gambling participation, promotion and marketing which may be of concern to ethical investors:
The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) of the Church of England recommends against investment in any company, where a major part of its business activity or focus (defined as more than 25% of group turnover) is gambling.
The CFB abides by the biblical principle to encourage a concern for the vulnerable and oppressed. The CFB supports the ecumenical work of the Church to persuade the Government to take action to help reduce the number of problem gamblers. The CFB excludes companies principally involved in betting and gambling. In June 2011 following its admission to the FTSE All Share Index, Perform Group was added to the list of company exclusions. The CFB regularly monitors the small exposure to gambling at BSkyB via its online platform and raised the subject when it met with the company.
In June 1992, Methodist Conference deplored the decision to introduce legislation to establish a national lottery on two grounds: that charities would suffer a decline in income, and that ‘harm would be caused to individuals and families’. TScratch cards were singled out for particular criticism as the most likely to result in harm.
In October 1994, JACEI advised the CFB on three holdings that formed part of the Camelot Consortium that won the license to operate the National Lottery until 2001. These were Racal, Cadbury and De la Rue. JACEI advised disposal of Racal, which stood to gain the most from its investment in the consortium as provider of the communications network. JACEI was also conscious of Racal’s links to defence. On balance, JACEI advised against disposal of the stakes in Cadbury and De la Rue, on grounds that the stakes were operationally and financially less material. Moreover, JACEI encouraged the CFB to use these stakes as a vehicle for engagement with the two companies on more responsible approaches to managing the Lottery in order to prevent harm.
In November 1994, Methodist Council issued advice for local, circuit and district bodies not to seek Lottery funding except in very particular circumstances (notably, enhancing its work alongside the poor), and this was endorsed by the 1996 Conference.
The 1995 Conference endorsed proposals for reforming the National Lottery put forward by the Council of Churches in Britain and Ireland that included raising the age of participation in the
By 1999, the position established of not seeking project funding from the Lottery had become a minority one, with Catholics, Anglicans and the Church of Scotland all relaxing their former opposition, The 1999 Conference adopted a Resolution allowing Church Courts to seek Lottery funding, whilst remaining sensitive to those members opposed to this source of funding.
The most recent Statement issued by the Methodist Church on the National Lottery was in 1999.
Given the increasing concern about the impact of problem gambling, there is a clear need for the CFB to engage proactively with those companies with a reasonable exposure to gambling.
As exposure to gambling rises, concern around the company would grow and there would need to be increasing engagement around corporate practices towards advertising, marketing, and the promotion of responsible gambling. If a company has a reasonable exposure but refuses to engage on these issues, there may be a question of whether it is suitable for investment.
Businesses that facilitate and target youth gambling should not be considered as suitable for investment, including organisations which operate amusement arcades and gambling activities that are accessible to children. Leisure and retail companies need close monitoring to assess the levels of their turnover that come from gambling activities.
Companies with moderate exposure to gambling should be encouraged to engage proactively with the impact of gambling advertising and sponsorship and monitor their exposure to gambling advertising revenue.
Companies linked with sporting advertising and sponsorship deals which expose children to the promotion of gambling should not be considered as suitable for investment.
Companies which have revenues from gaming machines, especially higher stake/prizes, should not be considered as suitable for investment.
Companies specifically engaged in the promotion of spread betting should not be considered as suitable for investment.
Engagement should be pursued with companies selling in to the UK market, but not licenced by the Gambling Commission, about the standards of regulation, until the primary legislation makes possession of a Gambling Commission licence mandatory for all operators selling into the UK. Companies involved in the promotion of ‘soft’ “forms of gambling such as lotteries and bingo, may be suitable for investment, but would be subject to engagement to understand their approach to marketing, promotion and advertising, and their support for responsible gambling initiatives. These should include research, education and treatment for problem gambling”
Under current regulations, gaming machines in the United Kingdom are differentiated by:
It is recognised that some machines are potentially more addictive and risky than others. Electronic roulette games or those with high stakes, high prizes, rapid play and stimulation via visual features such as flashing lights appeal to gamblers. The Gambling Act 2005 created a framework so that the harder form of gambling machine would only be permitted in specific contexts such as casinos, amusement arcades. Venues easily accessible to children would only have the ‘softest’ machines; intermediate contexts such as bingo halls or ‘adult gaming centres’ would be categorised in the middle.
Accordingly, machines are regulated by stakes and prizes and by premises. The current rules as defined by the Gambling Commission are as follows[i]
|Maximum stake (from July 2011)
|Maximum prize (from July 2011)
|£100 (in multiples of £10)
|Arcades, betting premises, casinos
|Arcades, betting premises, bingo premises, casinos
|Arcades, betting premises, bingo premises, casinos
|Arcades, betting premises, bingo premises, casinos, pubs, clubs, and other qualifying alcohol licensed premises
|Arcades, betting premises, bingo premises, casinos, pubs (public houses), clubs, and other qualifying alcohol licensed premises
|D non-money prize (other than crane grab machine)
|Arcades, betting premises, bingo premises, casinos, pubs (public houses), clubs, and other qualifying alcohol licensed premises, travelling fairs
|D non-money prize (crane grab machine)
|D money prize
(Bold items show the highest category the premises are allowed to contain)
Category A was created specifically for the new super casinos as part of the provisions in the Gambling Act 2005. At present no super casinos have been built, so there are currently no Category A machines.
There are separate rules about the number of different kinds of machines allowed in premises. Large casinos can have up to 150 Category B machines in any combination and small casinos are permitted a machine to table ration of 2:1 with a maximum of 80 machines.
The older casinos regulated under the Gambling Act 1968 have no machine/table ratio, are permitted up to 20 machines in Categories B to D, or any number of C or D machines. Betting shops may contain up to 4 machines of Categories B2 to D.
All the Category B machines are deemed suitable for casinos, while arcades and betting shops are allowed to contain machines of any category from B2 ‘downwards’. The categorisations from A to D originally represented a clearer distinction based on the ‘hardness’ of gaming. But since the Gambling Act 2005 there have been increases in stakes and prizes categories which have tended to erode the original framework.
Category C represents traditionally ‘softer’ gaming machines, such as fruit machines or one-armed bandits. But the venues which can have C machines can also have B4 machines with a much higher prize payout.
Category D represents the mildest machines, aimed at children. However, here it should be noted that the maximum value of crane-grab machines, for instance, is almost as high as the maximum prize for Category C machines (£50 versus £70)
Following the Gambling Act 2005, it was planned that gaming machine stakes and prizes would be reviewed every three years. In practice there have been ad hoc increases in response to industry requests:
This was followed in 2013 by the Triennial Review of Gaming Machine Stake and Prize Limits[ii], which proposed four ‘packages’, i.e. options for specifying changes in gaming machine stakes and prizes
The consultation secured over 9,500 responses including a submission from the Methodist Church. The Government’s overall approach supports ‘strong encouragement’ to the industry to make ‘demonstrable progress’ on player protection in order to accommodate significant uplifts in stakes and prize limits. The Government was minded to support increases in stakes and prize limits in some categories (e.g. B1), provided any ‘additional risk is mitigated through the development, trialling and evaluation of improved harm mitigation measures’.
The Government’s preferred options are broadly compatible with the gambling industry’s suggestions, only showing caution regarding prizes for Category B3A machines and Category D, crane grabbers.
The Methodist Church along with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church, argued in their submission to the Triennial Review that previous increases in stakes and prizes had not been justified on an evidence basis and that there should be no blanket presumption that increases are necessarily justified. In particular, the stake from Category B2 machines should be reduced from £100 to £2, the maximum for other Category B machines.[iii]
The table below shows the Government’s final recommendations, which are awaiting legislative implementation in early 2014. These are virtually identical to the preferred package described in the consultation document, with two noteworthy exceptions:
|Current max stake
|Current max prize
|Max stake: Preferred option
|Max. prize: Preferred option
|£10,000 (with the option of a maximum £20,000 linked progressive jackpot on a premises basis only)
|D non money prize (other than crane grab)